Posted by: Titus Presler | July 7, 2009

Mission the basis of Church Periodical Club dinner

The Church Periodical Club’s dinner always occurs the night before the opening of the Episcopal Church Women’s Triennial Meeting, which coincides with the opening of General Convention as the two groups meet during the same period of time, this year July 8-17.  CPC divides its work between the USA on the one side, and, on the other, dioceses of the Episcopal Church outside the USA and dioceses in other Anglican provinces.  Providing books and periodicals to places of need in the church at home and abroad is its mission in the sense of its purpose.  The fact that many such places are among very different peoples is what gives CPC’s work its distinctly missional flavor in the sense of mission being ministry in the dimension of difference.

So it is that the dinner has long been termed the Overseas Bishops Dinner, an occasion to welcome, to the Triennial and to Convention, bishops in whose dioceses the CPC has sent books to school and seminary libraries, provided periodicals, sponsored reading programs, and the like.  Tonight’s dinner was a full-house affair at the Clarion Hotel with lots of CPC members – all of them women from what I could see, the historic constituency of CPC – lots of lay leaders, clergy and bishops from around the Episcopal Church, and a good showing of international bishops.

I found CPC members very enthusiastic about the mission outreach they’ve been part of.  C. C. Johnson from the Diocese of Lexington, for instance, spoke of a reading program her diocese helps support under the auspices of the Order of the Holy Cross monastery in Grahamstown, South Africa, and she was hoping to meet up with a bishop from Mexico with whom discussions have started about a reading program in his diocese.  This is so typical of the Episcopal Church in these days: everywhere one discovers international engagements small and large, initiated and/or sponsored by parishes, dioceses, agencies and so on – engagements that are so numerous and widespread that it would be very difficult to document them all.

The term “overseas” is a bit of an anachronism that harkens back to when the Episcopal Church Center had a Department of World Mission and people were accustomed to talking about overseas dioceses and bishops, with particular reference to those parts of the Episcopal Church that were in other countries, starting as “overseas” missionary districts, then missionary dioceses, then dioceses in their own right.  The Episcopal Church has about 10 jurisdictions today beyond the USA today, ranging from Dominican Republic to Taiwan and including the Convocation of American Churches in Europe.

Bp. Carlos Touché-Porter joked in his remarks tonight about how “overseas” is not quite accurate for his own Anglican province of Mexico, of which he is primate, for Mexico is “just south of the border.”  More significantly, he witnessed to the importance of the CPC’s work in his own life, for book grants during his years in seminary formed the germ of his own theological library.

Reflecting the historic outreach of the Episcopal Church, it’s notable that most of the international bishops were from areas that were formerly organic parts of TEC or that continue to be part of TEC today.  The primates of IARCA, Philippines and Mexico were present, as was the bishop of Liberia, all formerly part of TEC.  Bishops of current international dioceses of TEC included those of Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Taiwan.  Other parts of the communion represented included Korea and Japan.  And I may have missed some!

Unlike CPC dinners I remember from the past, there was little episcopal representation from Africa, but it was good to meet the Rev. Canon Grace Kaiso, a Ugandan priest who is the new general secretary of CAPA, the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa.  He is coming in after a vacancy of three years following the ministry in that position of the Rev. Canon John Kanyikwa, also from Uganda.  On another note, Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, attended the dinner this year with his wife Jennifer, and it was good to see them there an an expression of the commitment of the Anglican Communion leadership.

CPC President Ursula Baxley observed in her remarks that ECW, UTO and CPC are sometimes referred to as the “Three Sisters” in the sense of three major women’s organizations in the church.  One could add the Daughters of the King to make a fourth.  Striking about all three – or four – is that they have all been passionate about mission throughout their history, passionate about reaching out beyond themselves to work with and form community with people in the wider world who may be very different from themselves.  As many have previously observed, women have been major movers in the world mission of the church.

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